May 17, 2021 8 min read

Improve your salted caramel with this no fail total guide to success every time. Making great salted caramel is a sure fire way to win hearts and by following these tips you'll soon master this art and science.

Salted Caramel cut with wrapped caramels and a small bowl of salt

Caramel is by far one of the most enjoyable treats. With basic caramel making skills, you'll be able to make not only caramel but caramel sauce, and of course, with an easy recipe change salted caramel. It's a little work to learn the caramel making tips but once you do have the process sorted you'll be off and racing.

Caramel and Salted Caramel remains popular. Apparently, there's a good scientific reason for what some might call a caramel addiction. According to recent research by the University of Florida, when we indulge in sweet, salty, or fatty foods, the brain releases chemicals called endogenous opioids. Salted Caramel is a mix of all three ingredients and so leaves us wanting more ( and more!). Apparently, the research shows that complex flavours created by these ingredients result in different flavour sensations with every bite and so we want more and more.

Who invented Salted Caramel?

Salted Caramel was invented by a French Master Chocolatier and Caramel Maker Henri Le Roux. After taking over his family shop he attempted to differentiate his shop from the many others in the region by leveraging the well known salted butter of the area. After a lot of development, Le Roux was able to create the now-famous salted butter caramel. It was met with huge delight and actually made him and his store famous. In 1980 the Salon International De La Confiserie awarded Le Roux the "Best Sweet in France" award. A job well done and still met with much delight and love around the world.

What is caramel?

Caramel is sugar that is cooked until it turns golden brown. Normal kitchen sugar is chemically known as sucrose. Sucrose is made up of two molecules Glucose and Fructose. As Sucrose is heated the structure of Sucrose breaks down into these chemicals. With continued heat and in the presence of other ingredients the glucose and fructose break down into many other chemicals. These later chemicals that are formed will have all different flavour attributes from fruity flavours to buttery and even nutty flavours. The final combination is a result of the caramel recipe and the amount of heat applied. These delicious chemical reactions are what make the taste, aroma and texture of caramel.

As sugar is placed over heat and starts to melt various reactions occur and different caramel is formed. Each stage is given a name is noted at the following temperatures:

Soft Ball :  112-116 C :  

Firm Ball : 116- 120 : 

Hard Ball : 121-130 : 

What are the ingredients for making salted caramel?

Luckily the ingredients in Salted Caramel are quite simple. While there are many variations of Salted Caramel the basic ingredients include butter, cream, sugar and of course salt. Variations may exist around using brown sugar or golden syrup however the basic recipe relies on simple white sugar or caster sugar.

salt in a bowl beside wrapped caramel and unwrapped caramel

 Which salt to use for salted caramel?

The salt used in a salted caramel does impact the product. Many a great recipe suggests Maldon sea salt and I cant argue with this recommendation. I used pink Himalayan salt in the recipe below as it looks pretty and adds a little something special as a dessert. Sea salt is always a great choice. Sea salt is made directly from evaporated sea water and is not generally further processed. To this end it contains a number of other minerals that are present in the sea salt that may other wise be lost in salt that is processed.

What type of butter should I use for salted caramel?

Recipes vary with their recommendation. Traditionally salted butter was used to develop this recipe however you could easily use unsalted butter and add a little extra salt to the caramel recipe.

What cream is best to use in salted caramel recipe?

The best cream to use is pure cream. We always use pure cream at Dello Mano and it is my preference in making caramel. Thickened creams have other gelling agents and may interfere with the caramel recipe.

Can cream be substituted in a salted caramel recipe?

You can make substitutions for cream in salted caramel. Find the right recipe for the ingredients that you have. There are recipes around for substituting milk for cream though this can never be a one for one substitution. Cream has significantly more fat than milk and so the recipe will be different. There are lots of variations for caramel ingredients. At Dello Mano we make a vegan caramel using coconut cream for example . It really depends on what ingredient you want to use and then finding a caramel recipe to suit.

How is Salted Caramel different to Salted Caramel Sauce.

We all love both for good reason. They're basically the same although the salted caramel sauce is a softer sugar boil and the candy version a higher boil.

Is special equipment needed to make salted caramel?

When making caramel use a pot with good heat transfer. My preference is a heavy based copper pot as the heat is transferred quickly and evenly. From there so long as you have good heat ( gas is best), a whisk, saucepan and a spoon to sample the colour of the caramel as it cooks. Although not necessary you will be glad to have invested in a confectionery thermometer as it provides reassurance  while cooking caramel.

Does Dello Mano have a Salted Caramel brownie?

Dello Mano offers a great Salted Caramel brownie. We make a simple caramel sauce and layer it on top before baking. The result is delicious fudgy brownies with a lovely buttery, creamy salted sauce. The Salted Caramel Brownies can be found in our Mixed Brownie Gift Box onlineor if you pop into one of our Dello Mano stores ( New Farm or Wintergarden Brisbane CBD) you can buy a single or have a gift box packed to your own preference. Each of our stores has mixed gift boxes packed and ready to go. Dello Mano offers Brownie delivery Brisbane and across Australia. Most brownie delivery is overnight to each major capital city however if you are in Brisbane same day brownie delivery is available.

Does Dello Mano make a Caramel Cake?

We make a delicious Caramel Mud Cake - used as a base in our Ode to Golden Gaytime cake and is a very popular choice in our celebration cake which is most often used as a birthday cake. Our caramel cake is available online and we offer cake delivery Brisbane, outside Brisbane Metro, Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

Top Tips for Making Caramel

  • use a good heavy-bottomed metal pot with tall sides. This is best way to effectively heat and melt the sugar evenly.
  • make sure the pot is clean. The caramel mixture will pick up any bits and pieces in the pan so take care to make sure there is no burning left on the pan.
  • line your baking tray in advance. You can use butter to grease your pan however my preference is to line the tray with baking paper.
  • if you're using vanilla in your caramel recipe then use a good quality pure vanilla bean or paste. The difference between this and vanilla essence is significant. Real vanilla in caramels including caramel sauce adds a little extra magic with combined with a good quality vanilla ice cream.
  • a small caramel batch is best. Don't be tempted to make a batch that is too large as it is harder to manage
  • As above, you will be so glad to have a confectionery thermometer on hand - once the heat is applied to the sugar there is great reassurance in knowing that cooking caramel is a science and the thermometer will definitely provide relief to newcomers to caramel cooking.
  • make sure not to leave sugar on the edges of the pot. Use a pastry brush with a little water to make sure the sides of the pot are clean. Just use straight tap water. You can do this up until the mixture begins to boil. Don't stir the caramel as it is cooking as this can push sugar back up the sides of the pot. If sugar crystals are left on the pot or pushed up and then dried from the heat this will result in the sugar recrystallising. If this happens these crystals can find their way back into the caramel and set off a crystal propagation (chain reaction) with will cause your caramel to go grainy.
  • Use medium heat on your stove. You do need to get the caramel mixture up to temperature but you don't want to go too quickly. A nice even heat will help you control the process.
  • When you pour the cooked caramel don't scrape the pot - just let it run from the pot to avoid bringing in any sugar crystals.
  • Wait until the caramel is safe to touch and just as it is still warm ( do not touch hot caramel) cut into pieces.
  • Wait for the caramel to fully cool before being tempted to try it! Caramel is very hot and patience is required.
  • Caramel is hot - take safety very importantly. It is essential to have everything ready including safety gear before you start and stay very alert. Caramel or any cooked sugar is very hot and dangerous. Take absolute care.

How to store Salted Caramel

In our family salted caramel is usually eaten in the same hour that it cools! If you do want to store it though, it is essential to follow these instructions. 

After cutting your caramel wrap them in baking or parchment paper individually and twist the ends. The best way to store caramel is in an airtight jar, zip lock bag or other moisture-free air tight containers. If you have a nice caramel and it is sugar crystal free, you can keep individually wrapped caramel for a couple of weeks in the pantry ( though this does depend on how much moisture you have left in your caramel). This makes it a great food gift to make ahead of Christmas.

Caramel does not need to be refrigerated. Just make sure it is stored in an air tight container.

Caramel sauce generally should be kept in the fridge as it has more moisture than hardened caramel. It is usually good int he fridge for a couple of weeks. When we are looking at plain vanilla ice cream for dessert we're always glad to remember caramel sauce in the fridge.

By understanding some of the basic chemistry you can improve your salted caramel with this guide and get success every time. Next time your looking for a homemade food gift why not give salted caramels a try?


An extra Safety Note:

Many cooks are happy to take on a caramel cheesecake or caramel sauce recipe but they worry about cooking caramel to the hard ball stage. Following the recipe is important however equally important is the need to take extreme CARE with the hot liquid. Caramel is very hot and it sticks to skin so stand back from the heat if you are adding ingredients and use appropriate saftey equipment. Take extreme care when pouring the caramel.

Start with an easy caramel sauce first to get used to working with caramel before taking on a harder texture caramel recipe.

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